You bring your well-trained dog to the park – only to immediately lose their focus. They’re overwhelmed by a smorgasbord of aromas that we humans can’t even begin to imagine. With smelling powers that beat ours at least 40 times over, we shouldn’t be surprised.
Harnessing your dog’s innate skills to hunt down odors will help you regain your dog’s focus. You’ll also be able to derive practical uses from this fun little game. Your dog will love using their nose to sniff their way to rewards.
Nosework is an enjoyable sport for all dogs, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes and everything in between. All dogs possess superior smelling abilities, though scent hounds like beagles and dachshunds are the most naturally gifted.
Shy and reactive dogs can participate in formal nosework classes and competitions because only one dog is allowed to search at a time. Nosework can make timid dogs feel more confident, while reactive dogs can learn to focus on a task, rather than a trigger.
You can start nosework with your dog in your home with relatively few supplies. You’ll need a few boxes or other containers, similar or identical, if possible. Then, you’ll need a food or toy that your dog loves.
Start off by allowing your dog to watch you hide the scent. Place the food or toy in one of the containers, then say, “find it!” and release your dog to start the hunt. Your dog can eat any foods they find. Then, you’ll praise your dog and give them another treat, or play a quick game with the toy they’ve found.
Some dogs are trained to locate a scent from the start, instead of finding a food reward. You can use essential oils, perfumes or spices instead. Remember, your dog’s sense of smell is powerful, so you only need a very small sample. If the scent is not self-rewarding, like a hidden treat, you’ll need to create a positive association by awarding your dog every time they move towards it.
You can teach your dog to help you find almost anything. Never again will you have to worry about losing your keys, the TV remote, your phone – anything! You’ll need to scent your belongings to make them easier for your dog to detect when they’re hidden. The keychain for your car keys can be rubbed with an essential oil, herb or spice so your dog can find them.
If you’re serious about nosework, you can get a target odor kit. These kits typically include anise, birch and clove essential oils, which are also used in formal classes and competitions.
Ready to take your dog to the next level? Find a K9 Nosework class near you. A certified nosework instructor (CNWI) can teach you and your dog to transition from basic food-hunting games to advanced scent detection.
Dogs need enriching activities each day to help them maintain a healthy weight and avoid destructive behavior. Follow Tether Tug by liking us on Facebook or following us on Pinterest and Instagram for more great ideas for healthy, active dogs.
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